These dainty stairs with their lacy shadows are on the rear wall of Hauteville House, Guernsey. This was the home of Victor Hugo, who lived here in political exile in the mid-nineteenth century. He passed the time decorating the interior - which is extraordinary, and accessible on guided tours - visiting his mistress Juliette Drouet who took a house nearby, and writing (or completing) Les Miserables, followed by The Toilers of the Sea which he dedicated to the people of Guernsey.
The house is preserved as a museum to Hugo. It is owned not by the island but by the City of Paris.
How ironic it is when people who are rejected by their countries as undesirables are later proudly lionized by those same countries.
How fortunate for Hugo that he found a refuge so close to his native land. In those days, the local variety of Norman French would have been more widely spoken in the Channel Islands and the educated people would have spoken something closer to the official French language. I wonder whether he interested himself in linguistic matters.
Could he ever have imagined that a version of Les Misérables would at some future time become a virtual fixture in London?
Hugo was actually rather clever: he got thrown out of Jersey, but bought a house in Guernsey (a collection of poems had just done rather well). As a property-owner there, he couldn't be expelled. I'm sure the language must also have been an attraction.
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