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  • Hauteville House and garden
  • Victor Hugo and family
  • Room interior at Hauteville House
  • Views from Hauteville House
  • Bedroom interior at Hauteville House
  • Dining room at Hauteville House

Victor Hugo and Hauteville House

Best known as the French author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo lived in exile in St Peter Port from 1855 until 1870. The eclectic and fascinating house he bought in order to secure his exile in Guernsey is located at 38 Rue Hauteville. Now housing the Victor Hugo Museum, during April to November (except Wednesdays) the gardens are free to enter and tours of the house can be booked.

For more details take a look at the programme of events.

Visit Guernsey and find out more

Hugo’s life and loves

Victor Hugo led a fascinating personal life and produced a highly regarded body of literary works. Born in France in 1802 to a Catholic Royalist mother and a father who was an officer in Napoleon’s army, his political views were formed at a young age. Opposing capital punishment and supporting universal suffrage and free education for all, Hugo gained a reputation as a Freethinker and Romantic. He travelled widely in his early childhood before his mother settled in Paris. Much of his early poetry has Royalist Catholic themes, reflecting her influence. However as the French Revolution had left its mark and it was clear by his writing that Hugo had become a Republican.

Hugo became secretly engaged to his childhood friend, Adèle Foucher, only marrying after the death of his mother. The couple had five children, the eldest died in infancy and sadly their second child, Léopoldine drowned shortly after her marriage at the age of 19, taking her young husband with her as her tried to save her. It has been said that Hugo never got over her death and wrote about it in his poetry.

Whilst in exile in Guernsey, Hugo installed his long term mistress, Juliette Drouet, in a house just down the street. She worked as his secretary and travelling companion and the couple met secretly at Victoria Tower on the island, where their initials can still be seen carved into the stonework.

Hauteville House and garden
Victor Hugo and family
Room in Hauteville House

Exile

In the 1840’s Hugo was still living in France and fast rising through the echelons of political society. When Napoleon III seized power in 1851, Hugo openly called him a traitor and subsequently fled in exile, first to Brussels, then Jersey where he was expelled and finally to Guernsey where he stayed for 15 years. The author never learnt English but got by in Guernésiais and French. He wrote from a room at the top of Hauteville House which offered panoramic views of St Peter Port, the Bailiwick Islands and over to France.

Hauteville House

Hauteville House today is preserved exactly as the house Hugo left after a brief return in 1878. Donated by his family in 1927, it is now operated as a museum by the City of Paris. Buying the house secured his place on the island as the laws prevented home owners from being deported. The four storey house had originally been built in 1800 and had a reputation for being haunted! As such it had remained unoccupied for a number of years. Hugo completely renovated it, decorating it with a medieval theme. He was an enthusiastic collector of second hand furniture which can still been seen furnishing the rooms. He wrote from The house also has beautifully landscaped gardens.

Victor Hugo’s Guernsey

Many of Hugo’s most famous work was published or written whilst he was in Guernsey, including Les Misérables, Toilers of the Sea, The Man Who Laughs, The Legend of the Ages, Le Théâtre en Liberté. Toilers of the Sea was set on the island dedicated to Guernsey as being his ‘rock of hospitality and liberty’. Known for his love of walking the dramatic south cliffs, a statue of the author mid-stride stands in Candie Gardens. It is also possible to book a guided walk exploring the places Hugo went and those mentioned in Toilers of the Sea.

Hugo left Guernsey after the fall of the Second Empire when he returned to France. He made several visits back to Guernsey before his death in 1885.

View from Hauteville House
Room interior Hauteville House
Statue of Victor Hugo in Candie Gardens