From 1830 into the 1860's, there were a series of massive political upheavals in Europe. Most were caused by the desire of the peoples of many nations to oust their royal elites and attain a fairer and more representative government. At the core of this was a struggle between the haves and...
From 1830 into the 1860's, there were a series of massive political upheavals in Europe. Most were caused by the desire of the peoples of many nations to oust their royal elites and attain a fairer and more representative government. At the core of this was a struggle between the haves and have-nots. The elites fought back hard and there was fighting in the streets. There was a revolt in France in 1830, one in which Victor Hugo took part. but it led to the disappointing enthronement of King Louis Philippe. There was a widespread liberal revolution throughout much of the continent in 1848 which was crushed. In 1851 France was again in upheaval and Louis Napoleon seized power and proclaimed himself emperor. By 1860, forces in Italy and Germany sought to unify their respective people in national entities, and wars were in progress that would soon achieve those goals. Thus, there was both a significant reorientation of the political landscape, the frustration of populist movements, and the rise of nationalism and the modern nation state. Meanwhile, in the United States, brother fought against brother, not against royal elites but on behalf of ideals.
In the world of philosophy and literature, the most important year was 1862. That spring, Victor Hugo released to the public a work of great scope – Les Miserables – that brilliantly examined the nature of good, evil, and the law, in a sweeping story that encompassed history, politics, morality, philosophy, law, justice, and religion. It had taken 17 years to complete. It focused squarely on the poor of the streets of France during the French Revolution and the protagonists were people with no means or those who had previously been poor. Hugo was a champion of the poor. He left five sentences as his last will, to be officially published: "I leave 50,000 francs to the poor. I want to be buried in their hearse. I refuse [funeral] orations of all churches. I beg a prayer to all souls. I believe in God."
In French, there is a saying that goes “give 100 francs” that means in essence to be generous or to give something from generosity. This was Hugo's guiding morality and something close to his heart.
Autograph sentiment signed, no date. “Kindly give 100 francs to the poor of your country.”
The message here is clear: it is your duty to help the poor, a message he would honor in his last will and testament.
This piece was de-accessioned to us by a major US institution and has not before been offered sale. Although Hugo must have written this sentiment other times, our research discloses just one other ever having reached the market.
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