Victor Hugo and Guernsey: Henry Tupper

18th September 2017

The enfant terrible of the Administration who battled for what he considered just and right continuously, and a friend of Victor Hugo. This biography forms part of the Victor Hugo and Guernsey project.

The enfant terrible of the Administration who battled for what he considered just and right continuously.

So wrote Eric Sharp in 1979, in his Lighthouses of the Channel Islands.

Henry Tupper was born at the Cotils in 1809, the son of John Elisha Tupper and Elizabeth Brock, the sister of Sir Isaac Brock. He became a jurat in 1857. He was a friend of Hugo and advised him about local matters when he was writing Les Travailleurs de la mer.

Tupper was appointed vice-consul of France in 1840, a post he held until the coup d’état in France of 1851, when he was replaced with a French national. In 1863 Tupper was reinstated and remained vice-consul until 1874. He lent Hugo and his son François-Victor his 21-volume set of the works of Shakespeare, which had previously belonged to his uncle, Irving Brock.

Tupper was a progressive. He was particularly interested in shipping─the family business for generations─and agitated for improvements to the harbour and in maritime technology.  His obituary in the Star in April 1875 states that every modern achievement undertaken in Guernsey not only had in him a warm advocate from the commencement, but owed its triumphant achievement in a great measure to his active and zealous co-operation. The New Harbour works may be cited as an example of the versatility of Mr Tupper’s genius as well as of his indomitable energy and public spirit.

Another of his uncles was the philanthropic Savery Brock, whose inclinations were towards engineering and construction; Brock pioneered steam travel in the Channel Islands in the early 1820s, having been inspired by a passenger steamer he saw on a visit to Canada.


Letter from Julie Chenay to Henry Tupper

Hauteville House 4 juin 1866


Je vous envoie l’exemplaire du Shakespeare qui doit vous appartenir; M Victor Hugo en vous remerciant de votre parfaite obligeance, vous fait observer qu’il manque deux volumes qu’il a dû emporter à Bruxelles, et qui vous seront restitués à la 1ere occasion. M Victor Hugo ayant momentanément égaré la lettre où son fils parle de votre exemplaire, vous me ferez beaucoup de plaisir, si vous voulez bien me faire savoir si les livres que nous vous renvoyons sont bien les vôtres.

Veuillez recevoir, cher Monsieur, l’assurance de ma parfaite considération,

J Chenay

Mr Henri Tupper

This letter, on black-edged mourning paper, is in Julie Chenay's hand and accompanied the return of a set of the works of Shakespeare that Henry Tupper had lent to François-Victor Hugo. The Shakespeare volumes and the letter are in a private collection in Guernsey. Henry Tupper bought from Redstone's, the Guernsey bookseller and librarian, the Second Folio from which François-Victor Hugo had worked when he was in Guernsey (he used a 1st Folio in the British Library when he was in London), and after Hugo left in 1870 he donated it to Elizabeth College, the private boys' school in Guernsey where Paul Stapfer was employed as a teacher. This Folio was recently sold out of the island by the school.