A political activist throughout most of his life, when Napoleon took power in 1851 and established an anti-parliamentary constitution, Hugo went into exile, first in Brussels then in Jersey, where he would stay until 1870.
While in exile, he wrote a great deal, including Les Misérables which, according to The Writer’s Almanac, was “hugely popular, and Hugo returned to Paris, was elected to the Senate of the new Third Republic, and when he died in 1885 at the age of 82, 2 million people showed up to his funeral, a procession through the streets of Paris.”
Hugo’s life makes for some fascinating reading and his 1829 novel, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, is said to have influenced the work of Albert Camus, Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Like his deep concern for human rights, Hugo’s work with regards to the rights of artists was both forward-thinking and far-reaching. He was a founding member of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale, which ultimately led to the creation of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Hugo notably said that “any work of art has two authors: the people who confusingly feel something, a creator who translates these feelings, and the people again who consecrate his vision of that feeling. When one of the authors dies, the rights should totally be granted back to the other, the people.”