First part of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables published
Originally shared by Ed Pearce
Victor Hugo began planning a major novel about social misery and injustice as early as the 1830s, but it would take many years for Les Misérables to be realized and the first part was finally published on March 30, 1862.
Hugo based some of his characters on the lives of real people. Valjean was probably inspired by the former criminal Eugène François Vidocq, who became the founder and first director of the crime-detection Sûreté Nationale Hugo probably used the story of Bienvenu de Miollis for the Bishop of Digne. (De Mollis was the bishop of Digne from 1805 to 1838.) The revolutionary leader Enjolras, was probably based on Louise Michel, a French anarchist.
Les Misérables was published almost simultaneously in ten European languages and had poor reviews. „Vile and inept” wrote Charles Baudelaire, though he praised Hugo’s success in focusing public attention on social problems,
Despite the poor reviews, Les Misérables was an almost immediate success. The first Parisian edition of 7,000 copies sold out within 24 hours. The book earned Hugo’s publisher half a million francs in its first six years.
All the officers in the US Confederate army were given copies of Les Misérables to carry with them at all times.
When Hugo was in Brussels on business in 1871, he was mobbed by a crowd of anti-revolutionary Belgians shouting ”Down with Victor Hugo! Down with Jean Valjean!”
Les Miserables has a sentence 823 words long, separated by 93 commas and 51 semicolons. It is one of the longest sentences in the French language.