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Victor Hugo and Juliette Drouet: An eternal love

My beloved Toto - Letters from Juliette Drouet to Victor Hugo

Surely with bookworms, you already know the name Victor Hugo, author of the world-famous novel Les Misérables. So do you know who the famous rose behind Victor is? His muse was not a childhood love affair – Adele, but a different person. That is Juliette Drouet, who spent 50 years with the great poet Victor Hugo.

When alive, he sees himself as the only canonical writer of the nineteenth century, and she admired him as a God. French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885) lived in a sustainable marriage, with many fans but still faithful to Juliette Drouet, the most famous woman in Paris at that time. This beauty is a muse, irreplaceable assistant, the number one military master, and a soul mate of the author “Les Misérables”. So, who is Juliette Drouet? What about her love for Victor? Let’s find out together!

Who is Juliette Drouet?

Juliette Drouet’s real name is Julienne Josephine Gauvain, 4 years younger than Victor Hugo. The Juliette Drouet family has an affordable family background. Father is a tailor and mother is a housekeeper. In her childhood, she soon struggled with a living life when her parents passed away one after another.

Juliette Drouet

Juliette Drouet moved in with her uncle. Here, she was exposed to literature and poetry. When he turned a teenager, Juliette Drouet had a romantic soul, loved singing. At the age of 19, she met the sculptor James Pradier through a business relationship. She is a model for James Pradier. The two quickly fell in love, despite James Pradier having a wife and children. This sculptor provided Juliette Drouet with money and an abundance of life. They share a daughter together. However, James Pradier does not intend to divorce his wife to live with Juliette Drouet. In his mind, she is just like a catalyst, helping to sublimate the work. The romance was not as expected, she was bored, plunging into relationships with dozens of rich men, powerful in society at that time.

In 1829, she entered the path of being female flower tea (“female flower tea” is the word for prostitute girls), sometimes she also acted in movies and performed in theaters. Victor Hugo and Juliette knew each other in the theater when she took on a small role in Hugo’s script play “Lucrezia Borgia”.

Victor Hugo was infatuated by the beauty of the young girl, and Juliette Drouet overwhelmed with the passionate heart of the great writer. The two people rushed together like a child. At this time, Juliette was living in a luxury apartment rented out by the Russian Duke – Anatoli Demidov.

50 years love story with the famous writer

Juliet had known many lovers, but her one desire had remained unmet since she first dreamed it at sixteen. She yearned to become the passionate companion of an honest man. She gave herself to her lovers, and many lovers she had during her lifetime, but in her
eyes, it was clear that she still sought that perfect one whom she could love and be assured that that love would be returned. She needed Hugo as much as he needed her.

Juliette and Victor Hugo

Juliette entered Hugo’s life at a time when he was deepest in despair. Love and friendship had failed Victor Hugo altogether. Adele, his childhood sweetheart, had betrayed him, and this betrayal was too painful for him to bear: “I have acquired the conviction that it is possible for the one who possesses all my love, to cease to care of me. I am no longer happy “.

Exactly a fortnight after the premiere of Lucrèce Borgia” at the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, on February 16, 1833, Juliette became Hugo’s mistress. Adele’s betrayal killed the Romantic poet’s heart, but Juliette’s love brought him back. 

Initially an actress, she abandoned her career to act as his ‘muse’ for Hugo in the mid-1830s. She traveled with him, read his works as their first critic, and transcribed them for Hugo’s publishers.

Throughout their 50 year relationship, Drouet wrote several letters a day to Hugo, who even encouraged her to do so. The correspondence, therefore, counts a staggering number of 20,000 letters – one of the largest in the history of literature. She did not expect a reply for her letters; they were somewhat used as a diary, in which she told about her day to Hugo, who picked the letters at each visit. 

You can read those letters in this book: My Beloved Toto: Letters From Juliette Drouet To Victor Hugo, 1833-1882 By Juliette Drouet

Thursday, 9.30, April 30th, 1842.

Good morning, my adored Toto. How did the little invalid sleep last night? As for you, I do not even ask, my poor dear, for I know you spend all your nights working. I love you, my poor angel. I do not know what else to say, because that is the only thought in my heart and soul; to love you always and forever. Here comes the bright sunshine that is going to cure our poor little man at once.

I have not seen a finer spring since the one we spent strolling about the heights of Montmartre together. I cannot think of it without tears of regret for the days that are gone, and of gratitude to Providence for those few moments of most perfect felicity. I would give half my life to have it again, my beloved Toto; and it depends only upon you—if you wished it, we could easily recover the happiness of those days. Why do you no longer desire it? I know you have to work, but so you did then—Claude GueuxPhilosophie MêléeLes Voix IntérieuresLes Chants du CrépusculeAngéloLes Rayons et Les Ombres and Ruy Blas, are there to prove it.

In those days you loved me better than you do at present. Alas, I love you more than ever, or rather, as much as the first day!—that is, with all my soul.


….. or the last letter to her greatest lover – Victor

“Monday, January 1st, 1883.

Dear adored one, I do not know where I may be this time next year, but I am proud and happy to sign my life-certificate for 1883 with this one word: I love you.


Until the last day of their lives, Victor and Juliette had been writing each other romantic love letters. He just called her “the real wife” and wrote for her many works of prose and poetry. When half a century had passed since the first day they met, Victor Hugo sent Juliette Drouet a drawing with the touching text: “50 years of love, it’s the best marriage”.

Then Juliette became seriously ill, and the doctors diagnosed it as cancer. Three months later, in 1883, she died …

Victor Hugo, her wonderful lover, lived only two years after Juliette’s death (1885) … The great minister left his nephew’s will: “Find love! Give joy and find joy for yourself while still in love! “

Juliet’s love had no fame, no identity, but it is a symbol of eternal love. She accepted to be by the side of Victor when he is most miserable and as a loyal companion than ever.

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