The Love Letters of Victor Hugo: 1820 - 1822

 by Victor Hugo


The Love Letters of Victor Hugo: 1820 - 1822 by Victor Hugo book cover
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And here they are, these " letters of early manhood, virtue, love " - she to whom he wrote them too modestly destroyed her own, but she piously preserved those of her fiancé -here they are, chaste but ardent, ingenuous but often grave, sportive in many places and yet full of high thoughts. Here they are, with all their extravagances, their discouragements, their complaints, their bursts of joy, their little scoldings, their caresses, their records of real quarrels followed by delicious reconciliations. They evidently were not written to be seen by other eyes than those of the girl he loved: he constantly entreats her to burn them; they are all the more valuable on that account. We rarely have a chance to see a love like this start fresh from its secret fount in all its spontaneity, so pure, so youthful, so sincere, and so profound.

Victor had known Adele when they were children. Their two families, the Hugos and the Fouchers,

For this day let me be your age again,
Good, happy, as I once was-then, with pain.
Let me shed tears that I am so no more.

I was eighteen! Such happy dreams had II
Hope sang sweet fictions for my lullaby;

A gleaming star was shining over me I
Now only in my heart I breathe thy name.
Then I was god to thee; but now with shame
Man recollects the child he used to be.

Lost dreams of power, success, and grace-alas I
How have I watched until her robe should pass;
How lavished kisses on her fallen glove I
Then I hoped all from life-love, strength, and fame]
Ah I to be pure, and to have faith, the same
In all things pure, as I had then, my love.

had been intimate before their birth. Their children grew up together. They called each other thee and thou.

Victor Hugo speaks thus of the birth of his young affection:

I see myself again, a child in years, a merry schoolboy, playing, running, shouting, laughing with my brothers in the long green alley in the wild garden of that home in which I passed my early life. We dwelt in the old Nunnery which lifts its head over the dark dome of Val de Grace.*

He sees himself again: * I was still a boy, but dreamy and full of passion," and beside him is a young girl. He sees her " with her large bright eyes, her abundant locks, her golden-brown complexion, her red lips, and her pink cheeks. ..."

Our mothers [he says] used to tell us to run and play together. We used to take walks instead. We were told to play, but we preferred to talk. We were children of the same age-not of the same sex. Nevertheless, for a year longer we were merely playfellows; we even had little trials of strength. I took from her once the biggest apple in the orchard; I slapped her when she would not let me have a bird's nest. She began to cry. I said : " All right, then! We will go and tell our mothers. They will tell us both that we were wrong, but in their hearts each mother will think her child was right."

But before long the time came when she walked leaning on my arm, and I was proud and experienced some new emotions. We walked slowly; we spoke softly. She dropped her handkerchief; I picked it up. Our hands touched each other, and trembled. She began to talk about the little birds, about the star over our heads, about the crimson after-glow of the sunset behind the trees, about her school-mates, her frocks, her ribbons. We talked innocently of commonplace things; yet we both blushed, for the little girl had grown a maiden.

* Le dernier jour d'un condamn.

 

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