According to an agreement with his publisher, French novelist Victor Hugo is due to turn in a draft of his book Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) on this day in 1830. However, Hugo applies himself to other projects, extends the deadline several times, and the book is not published until 1831.
Hugo, who had decided to be a writer during his early teens, published his first collection of poetry in 1822, for which he won a pension from Louis XVIII. Also in 1822, Hugo married his childhood sweetheart, Adele Foucher, with whom he would have numerous children.
The following year, Hugo published his first novel, Han d’Islande. His 1827 play Cromwell embraced the tenets of Romanticism, which he laid out in the play’s preface. The following year, despite his contract to write Notre Dame de Paris, he set to work on two plays. The first, Marion de Lorme (1829), was censored for its candid portrayal of a courtesan. The second, Hernani, became the touchstone for a bitter and protracted debate between French Classicists and Romantics. He finally finished Notre Dame de Paris, which pled for tolerance of the imperfect and the grotesque in 1831. The book also had a simpler agenda: to increase appreciation of old Gothic structures, which had become the object of vandalism and neglect.
In the 1830s, Hugo wrote numerous plays, many of them vehicles for his mistress, the actress Juliette Drouet. In 1841, Hugo was elected to the prestigious Acadamie Francaise. Two years later, he lost his beloved daughter and her husband when they were drowned in an accident. He expressed his profound grief in a poetry collection called Les Contemplations (1856).
When Napoleon III came to power, Hugo was forced to flee France and did not return for 20 years. While still in exile, he completed Les Miserables (1862), which became a hit in France and abroad. He returned to Paris during the Franco-Prussian War and was hailed a national hero. Hugo’s writing career spanned more than six decades. He was buried in the Pantheon after his death in 1885.