Victorian

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.

Victor Hugo and Guernsey: The Breakwater

24th October 2018
Opinions on the building of the Castle Emplacement from Victor Hugo and his son Charles. Charles took the accompanying photograph, The Castle Emplacement under construction, c 1856; he also took a fine study of St Catherine's Breakwater in Jersey some years earlier. (Hugo family friend Auguste Vacquerie was also an excellent photographer, and may possibly be responsible for this photograph, but Charles shared his father's appreciation of the effort and skill required to build these types of structures, and of the progress and growth they embodied, and is likely to have found this and the Jersey breakwater an appealing subject). The photograph is in the collection of Paris Musées: Construction de la digue reliant le château Cornet au port, attribuée à Charles Hugo, 1855-6.

Victor Hugo and Guernsey: a visit to Victor Hugo’s House, 1866

5th July 2018
By Thomas Cave, from the North Devon Journal, September 20 1866. 'It is always interesting to trace the home and associations of an eminent author and to realize a little of the inner life of the man whose works instruct or amuse us, especially when the impress of his mind is so visibly traceable in the material objects about him. It seems as if the fanciful taste which has arranged all these materials at its will in turn receives daily promptings from its very creation.' The engraving of The Oak Gallery is by one of Hugo's favoured artists, Fortune Méaulle, from Alfred Barbou's Victor Hugo and his times, New York: Harper, 1881, in the Library Collection.

Victor Hugo and Guernsey: Victor Hugo in exile

6th December 2017
Observations and reminiscences from author Theodora Teeling, from The Star, May 4, 1880. Mrs. Bartle Teeling (née Theodora Louisa Lane Clarke) was born in Guernsey in 1851, the only child of the Rev. Thomas Clarke, Rector of Woodeaton, Oxford, and Louisa Lane, scientist and author of topographical and historical works on the Channel Islands, including contributions to MacCulloch's Guernsey Folk Lore. Theodora 'spent her childhood in Woodeaton, Oxford, where her father was rector. On his death his widow returned with their only child to Guernsey,' in 1865. They lived at L'Hyvreuse Lodge in St Peter Port. In Guernsey her mother Louisa 'became a centre of literary and scientific interest and mental activity as student and writer of natural history, etc., and author of several scientific manuals.'¹ In 1879 Theodora married Bartle Teeling (1848-1921), Captain in the Rifle Brigade, Secretary (1872) of the Catholic Union of Ireland, and Private Chamberlain to the Pope. She died in 1906. Theodora dates her reminiscences to 1867 ('12 years since'), when she would have been aged 16, and to 1878, only two years before she wrote this piece. She would have been 27 years old. The first scene, however, if she has not conflated two Christmases, must date to 1864 or before, as she includes Hugo’s son, François-Victor, in it: or it was indeed 1867, and she has misidentified the men she saw; or she has embellished the truth a little.

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