March 26, 2009

Victor Hugo and Olympio's figure

In Les Voix Intérieures (Inner Voices), a collection published in 1837, appears the character of Olympio, Victor Hugo's poetic double. This figure is emblematic of what the poet must be, a guide for the people and leaders. He is the one who sees the truth, the future and who is responsible for transmitting them. André Maurois, in the biography Olympio: The Turbulent Life of Victor Hugo, says : "Writing love poetry is natural to the young man, the poet approaching maturity expects something else for himself. Victor Hugo, between 1836 and 1840, is concerned not to play any public role. Praising nature, the sun and Juliette [Drouet] was good, but can not complete the entire life of a man who wants to "be a spirit driver." Criticism in the Revue des Deux Mondes (Review of the Two Worlds) does not appreciate this Olympio and Gustave Planche writes in the July 15 1837 issue : "It is unfortunate that the name of Olympio is absolutely impossible, but the intention of Mr. Hugo, by creating this barbarism is quite evident. It is clear that in his thought, the idea of himself endorsed the idea of the Olympian Jupiter [...] Mr. Hugo is no longer capable of vision, he found himself a priest and an altar ... " The year of the publication of Les Voies Intérieures, Hugo goes alone at Les Metz, place of his clandestine affair with Juliette Drouet. In the collection Les Rayons et les Ombres (Rays and Shadows), published in 1840, Hugo uses again his allegoric figure in the poem "La tristesse d'Olympio" (The sadness of Olympio). The eternal beauty of nature contrasts with the remembering of a lost happiness. With these verses, Hugo writes a monument of romantic poetry. But, as Maurois states : " criticism, nor Juliette Drouet, then did see the perfection of what was thrown away with a wonderful profusion. "
(Victor Hugo's portrait: © Library of the National Assembly - Irene Andréani photo)

Currently, the librairie Loliée offers:
  • Hugo (Victor). Les Voix Intérieures. Poésie. Œuvres complètes. VI. Paris, Eugène Renduel, 1837, in-8, binding of the period. First edition.
  • Hugo (Victor). Les Rayons et les Ombres. Poésie. Œuvres complètes. VII. Paris, Delloye, 1840, in-8, beautifull binding by G. Mercier. First edition. Joined : an autograph letter of Sophie Gay to Victor Hugo in which she praises this collection, dated Versailles May 21 1840 (3 pp. in-8).
  • Maurois (André). Olympio ou la Vie de Victor Hugo. Paris, Hachette, 1954, in-8. First edition. One of the first 60 copies on Holland paper.