Victor Hugo and Guernsey: Algernon Charles Swinburne, King of Sark

22nd March 2019
Like the French artist Auguste Renoir, the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne visited Guernsey and Sark in order to follow in the footsteps of his hero and fellow poet, Victor Hugo. He fell in love with Sark and wrote poems describing his time there, so much so that he declared he would like to be king of the island. The portrait of a young Swinburne is by Rossetti — Swinburne had a mane of flaming red hair. It was drawn in August 1860 (image from the Rossetti Archive from a print held in the Delaware Art Museum). There is a selection of his Guernsey poems with reference to Victor Hugo at the bottom of this page.

Victor Hugo and Guernsey: Tapner's death mask

8th March 2019
‘Tu ne tueras pas.’ Pas d’exception. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ No exceptions. [Victor Hugo, 19 Feb. 1854, Marine Terrace, Jersey]. This death mask was kept by Victor Hugo in the Billiard Room in Hauteville House along with his famous drawing of Tapner, 'Le Pendu,' or 'The Hanged Man.' The Billiard Room was also home to portraits of the Hugo family, other favourite drawings, and maps of meaningful places in Hugo's life. The importance of these memoirs of Tapner to Hugo is thus obvious: they were a permanent reminder of the cruelty of man to man, and of his (for him) abject failure to save Tapner from the scaffold. In addition Hugo blamed himself for Tapner's execution, believing that his ardent intervention had actually been counter-productive - that the French government had pressed upon their British allies not to give in to Hugo's wishes, and that the British had complied. This striking photograph of the mask is by the late Guernsey photographer Carel Toms, taken in 1975, and is part of the Guernsey Photographic Archive held at the Priaulx Library.

The last voyage of the 'Pourquoi Pas?'/Le dernier voyage du 'Pourquoi Pas?'

6th March 2019
This account of the wreck of the Pourquoi Pas, an event greeted with immense dismay in Guernsey, where Commander Jean-Baptiste Charcot was a great favourite, was kindly written by Cédric Bail, assistant curator at Hauteville House, for the Priaulx Library 'Hauteville House and the Hugo family' exhibition of summer 2018. His original French text is included below.

Victor Hugo and Guernsey: Lost things: La Marcherie

7th November 2018
Once a magnificent farm house with 15 bedrooms, made of the best blue granite, said to be haunted, the old house of the La Marche family in St Martin's saw highs and lows. Its story ended with demolition by the Occupying Forces in 1944, and the memory of the house itself and a reputed connection with Victor Hugo became shrouded in mystery. It is quite possible that Victor Hugo admired the house - he certainly would have admired its wonderful situation, and is quoted as saying (in the advertisement above from a 1915 tourist brochure), 'Live at Icart, live forever!,' but there is no evidence he ever set foot in it. His family, however, were indeed intimately connected with it.

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