Author: Drouet, Juliette, 1806-1883
Juliette Drouet’s Love-Letters to Victor Hugo
Edited with a Biography of Juliette Drouet
JULIETTE DROUET’S LOVE-LETTERS
TO VICTOR HUGO
THE NEW FRANCE, Being a History from the accession of Louis Philippe in 1830 to the Revolution of 1848, with Appendices
By Alexandre Dumas. Translated into English, with an introduction and notes by R. S. Garnett.
In two volumes, Demy 8vo, cloth gilt, profusely illustrated with a rare portrait of Dumas and other pictures after famous artists. 24/-net.
The map of Europe is about to be altered. Before long we shall be engaged in the marking out. This we can hardly follow with success unless we possess an intelligent knowledge of the history of our Allies. It is a curious fact that the present generation is always ignorant of the history of that which preceded it. Everyone or nearly everyone has read a history—Carlyle’s or some other—of the French Revolution of 1789 to 1800; very few seem versed in what followed and culminated in the revolution of 1848, which was the continuation of the first.
Both revolutions resulted from an idea—the idea of the people. In 1789 the people destroyed servitude, ignorance, privilege, monarchical despotism; in 1848 they thrust aside representation by the few and a Monarchy which served its own interests to the prejudice of the country. It is impossible to understand the French Republic of to-day unless the struggle in 1848 be studied: for every profound revolution is an evolution.
A man of genius, the author of the most essentially French book, both in its subject and treatment, that exists (its name is The Three Musketeers) took part in this second revolution, and having taken part in it, he wrote its history. Only instead of calling his book what it was—a history of France for eighteen years—that is to say from the accession of Louis Philippe in 1830 to his abdication in 1848—he called it The Last King of the French. An unfortunate title, truly, for while the book was yet a new one the “last King” was succeeded by a man who, having been elected President, made himself Emperor. It will easily be understood that a book with such a title by a republican was not likely to be approved by the severe censorship of the Second Empire. And, in fact, no new edition of the book has appeared for sixty years, although its republican author was Alexandre Dumas.
During the present war the Germans have twice marched over his grave at Villers Cotterets, near Soissons, where he sleeps with his brave father General Alexandre Dumas. The first march was en route for Paris; the second was before the pursuit of our own and the French armies, and while these events were taking place the first translation of his long neglected book was being printed in London. Habent sua fata tibelli.
Written when the fame of its brilliant author was at its height, this book will be found eminently characteristic of him. Although a history composed with scrupulous fidelity to facts, it is as amusing as a romance. Wittily written, and abounding in life and colour, the long narrative takes the reader into the battlefield, the Court and the Hôtel de Ville with equal success. Dumas, who in his early days occupied a desk in the prince’s bureaux, but who resigned it when the Duc d’Orleans became King of the French, relates much which it is curious to read at the present time. To his text, as originally published, are added as Appendices some papers from his pen relating to the history of the time, which are unknown in England.
JULIETTE DROUET’S LOVE-LETTERS
TO VICTOR HUGO
EDITED WITH A BIOGRAPHY OF JULIETTE DROUET
LADY THEODORA DAVIDSON
WITH A PHOTOGRAVURE FRONTISPIECE
AND 36 ILLUSTRATIONS IN HALF-TONE
S T A N L E Y P A U L & C O
31 ESSEX STREET, STRAND, W.C.
First published in 1915
A POET, a great poet, loves a princess of the theatre. He is jealous. He forces her to abandon the stage and the green-room, to relinquish the hollow flattery of society and the town; he cloisters her with one servant, two or three of his portraits, and as many books, in an apartment a few yards square. When she complains of having nothing to do but wait for him, he replies: “Write to me. Write me everything that comes into your head, everything that causes your heart to beat.”
Such is the origin of the letters of Juliette Drouet to Victor Hugo. They are not ordinary missives confided to the post and intended to assure a lover of the tender feelings of his mistress: they are notes, mere “scribbles,” as Juliette herself calls them, thrown upon paper hour by hour, cast into a corner without being read over, and secured by the lover at each of his visits, as so many trophies of passion.
When Juliette Drouet’s executor, M. Louis Kock, died in Paris on May 26th, 1912, he had in his possession about twenty thousand. He had added to them the letters of James Pradier to our heroine, those of Juliette to her daughter, Claire Pradier, and the answers of Claire Pradier to her mother.
This collection of documents passed into the hands of a Parisian publisher, Monsieur A. Blaizot, who has been so good as to allow us to examine them and compile from them a volume concerning Victor Hugo and his friend.
At first sight the task presented grave difficulties—nay, it seemed almost impossible of execution. To begin with, it would have been futile to think of publishing the whole of the twenty thousand letters; in the second place, it might appear a work of supererogation to reconstruct from them in detail the story of a liaison well known to have been uneventful, almost monotonous, and more suggestive of a litany or the beads of a rosary than of tragedy or a novel.
We have attempted to surmount these objections in the following manner:
In the first portion we present the biography of Juliette Drouet in the form of a series of synthetic tableaux, each tableau summarising several lustres of her life. We thus avoid the long-drawn-out narrative, year by year, of an existence devoid of incident or adventure.
In the second, we publish those letters which strike us as peculiarly eloquent, witty, or lyrical. In the light shed upon them by the preliminary biography, they form, as one might say, its justification and natural sequel.
At the outset of her liaison with the poet Juliette does not date her “scribbles”; she merely notes the time of day and the day of the week, until about 1840; we have therefore been obliged to content ourselves with the classification effected by her in the collection of her manuscripts, and preserved by her executor.
From 1840 she dated every sheet. Consequently our work simultaneously achieves more precision and certainty.
When its difficulties have seemed insuperable, we have derived valuable encouragement from the sympathy of the literary students and friends who had urged us to undertake it, or were assisting us in its execution. We have pleasure in recording our thanks to the following: MM. Louis Barthou, Beuve, A. Blaizot, François Camailhac, Eugène Planès, Escolier, etc. b We have often wondered what the charming woman whose ideals, tastes, and habits have, by degrees, become almost as familiar to us as her handwriting, would have thought of our efforts. As far as she herself is concerned there can be but little doubt. She would have made fun of the undertaking. By dint of moving in the society of men of high literary attainments she had acquired a very modest estimate of her own wit and talent. In 1877, when the architect Roblin one day discovered her sorting out her “scribbles,” he thought she was attempting to write a book and gravely asked her “when it was to be published.” “What an idea!” she cried, and burst out laughing.
Such was not the opinion of Victor Hugo, however. That perfect artist attached the utmost importance to the writings of his friend. Each time she wished to destroy them he commanded her to preserve them. Whenever she proposed to bring them to a close, he insisted upon her continuing. We possess an unpublished letter from the poet in which he exclaims:
“Your letters, my Juliette, constitute my treasure, my casket of jewels, my riches! In them our joint lives are recorded day by day, thought by thought. All that you dreamed lies there, all that you suffered. They are charming mirrors, each one of which reflects a fresh aspect of your lovely soul.”
Surely such a phrase conveys approbation and sanction sufficient for both Juliette Drouet and her humble biographer.
|“La Tristesse D’Olympio”||33|
|The Shackles of Love||45|
|“On an Island”||84|
|“That which brings Satisfaction to the Heart”||104|
I. List of those of Victor Hugo’s Poems
which were inspired by Juliette Drouet
|II. Books concerning Juliette Drouet||314|
|III. Works of Art representing Juliette Drouet||314|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
|Victor Hugo and Juliette Drouet||Photogravure Frontispiece|
|The Château of Fougères in 1831||1|
|Claire Pradier as a Child||8|
|Victor Hugo as a Young Man||16|
|Juliette Drouet in the Rôle of La Princesse Négroni||24|
|Juliette Drouet in the Rôle of La Princesse Négroni||32|
|House in the Village of Les Metz, in the Parish of Jouy-en-Josas, Seine-et-Oise||32|
|Church of Bièvres, Seine-et-Oise||40|
|Victor Hugo about 1836||48|
|“Le Citoyen Victor Hugo jouant au Congrès de la Paix”||64|
|Claire Pradier at Fifteen||72|
|Claire Pradier on her Deathbed||80|
|Juliette Drouet in Jersey||88|
|Victor Hugo in Jersey||96|
|Victor Hugo, his Family, and Juliette Drouet at Hauteville House||104|
|Juliette Drouet in 1883||112|
|Juliette Drouet about 1830||128|
|A Page of Juliette Drouet’s Note-book in 1834||136|
Autograph Letter from Juliette Drouet to her
|Caricature of Mlle. George, by Victor Hugo||176|
|Portrait of Victor Hugo by Himself||176|
|Autograph and Drawing by Juliette Drouet||192|
|The Bridge of Marne||208|
|A Dedication by Victor Hugo to Juliette Drouet||224|
|Juliette Drouet in 1846||232|
|Victor Hugo, Républicain||240|
|Drawing by Victor Hugo, signed “Toto”||256|
|The Flower and the Butterfly||256|
|Juliette Drouet’s Hand||272|
|Victor Hugo, by Rodin||288|
|Juliette Drouet about 1877||296|
|The Deathbed of Victor Hugo||304|
|A Dedication by Victor Hugo to Juliette Drouet||304|
|Book-plate designed for Juliette Drouet by Victor Hugo||312|
JULIETTE DROUET’S LOVE-LETTERS
TO VICTOR HUGO
AN irregular outline, sombre colouring, a tangle of towers, steeples, high gables and ramparts, steep passages built in the form of steps: such was the town of Fougères at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The principal features of its surroundings were a turbulent river waging unceasing conflict with numerous mills, uncultivated wastes, more footpaths than lanes, and more lanes than high-roads.
This former hot-bed of chouans was an appropriate birthplace for a heroine of romance—and there, on April 10th, 1806, was born Julienne Joséphine Gauvain, subsequently known as Mademoiselle Juliette, and later still, as Madame Drouet.
Her father was a humble tailor living in a suburb of the town, on the road between Fougères and Autrain; her mother kept the little home. Madame Drouet was somewhat proud of her humble origin; she wrote: “I am of the people,” as others might boast “I am well born”; she wished thereby to explain and excuse her taste for independence, her fiery temper, and her impulsive nature. She might equally have attributed these to the neglect she suffered in early infancy.
For she had no parents to guard or train her. Her mother died on December 15th, 1806, before the infant could lisp her first words. On September 12th in the following year the father dragged himself to the public infirmary at Fougères, and there breathed his last. The infirmary took over the charge of the orphan, and was about to place her with the foundlings—indeed, the necessary formalities had already been complied with—when a protector suddenly came forward, a certain worthy uncle.
His name was René Henri Drouet. He was thirty-two years old, a sub-lieutenant of artillery, had seen active service in eight campaigns under Napoleon, and been wounded in the foot by the blow of an axe. The wound was such that some very quiet employment had to be provided for him. The ex-artilleryman was turned into a coast-guard, and dawdled out a bored existence in the little Breton port where fate confined him henceforth. He claimed Julienne, and she was handed over to his care.
It would be foolish to pretend that this retired warrior was a suitable person to undertake the training of a little girl. He understood only how to spoil and caress her. Never did child enjoy a wilder, more vagabond childhood. Julienne never got to the village school, because on the way thither glimmered a large pond bordered by clumps of bushes. Among the latter she would conceal her shoes and stockings, and, wading into the water, blue as the skies above, gather starry water-lilies. When she came out, more often than not she failed to find the hiding-place, and ran home bare-footed, with hair floating in the wind and a frock torn to ribbons. But she only laughed, and was forgiven because she made such a winsome picture in her tatters and her wreath of flowers. Those were halcyon days—days filled with innocent joys and elemental sorrows: a fruit-tree robbed of its burden under the indulgent eye of the old coastguard in his green uniform, the death of a tame linnet. All her life Julienne’s memory would dwell pleasurably on those early delights. Nothing could curb her natural wildness, not even the gate of a cloister or the rule of St. Benedict.
Among René Henri Drouet’s female relations he counted a sister and a cousin, nuns in a great Parisian convent, the Bernardines-Bénédictines of Perpetual Adoration. Their house was situated in the Rue du Petit-Picpus. When Julienne was ten years old he easily managed to have her admitted to the school attached to the convent, and thenceforth the orphan’s path in life seemed settled: she should first become a distinguished pupil, then a pious novice, and lastly a holy nun. But, as events turned out, Julienne was only to