Excerpt from “Victor Hugo” by Samuel Edwards ~~Homecoming~~

HugoThere had been no opportunity to send a telegram to anyone in Paris that Victor was coming home, as he believed that in the confusion no one would be on hand to receive it. So Victor expected no homecoming celebration of any kind. A rumor reached the train that the monarchy had been abolished and the Third Republic established – at least in Paris – so Victor could imagine the wild scenes taking place there. No one would know or care that a novelist-poet was returning from exile, he told his companions.
It appears that he was not posing for effect, but truly failed to realize the great stature he had attained in the hearts of his countrymen. But the others knew, and were determined that he not be cheated of his triumph. Jules Claretie told the conductor the identity of the white-haired passenger in the slouch hat, and the conductor sent the news ahead to Paris in a series of telegrams.
The train reached its destination at 9:35 A.M., and from the windows Victor could see that Gare du Nord was crowded with thousands of people, while thousands more filled the streets beyond it. He assumed that a riot of some sort was in progress, but would let nothing deter him from going home.
He stepped from the train, and a roar rattled the glass panes in the ceiling of the station. Volunteer “police” who were identified by their armbands held back the throngs, and a beautiful young woman walked alone down the platform, bearing two huge bouquets of flowers. Judith Gautier, the daughter of Victor’s old friend, had been selected to do the honors, and presented one bouquet to Victor, the other to Juliette.
Then volunteer police formed a flying wedge, and Victor was escorted to the balcony of a small café opposite the station. There he was cheered so loudly and continuously that the brief speech he made could not be heard.
The chant, “Vive Victor Hugo!” rose from thousands of throats.
Victor wept when the crowd spontaneously began to recite entire verses from Les Châtiments, his poetic paean of freedom.

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Victor Hugo” by Samuel Edwards ~~Homecoming~~

  1. Victor Hugo was born in Besançon, France on 26 February 1802, and died in Paris on 22 May 1885, aged 83 years. This homecoming took place in September 1870 after living in exile since 1855.
    Les Châtiments was written in 1853, a vehemently critical attack on the reign of Louis-Napoléon.

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