Victor Hugo – the Sketch Artist


The below image was drawn by Hugo when he was 14, and suggests at that age he was already thinking about ‘future generations’ reading his works.


The above were copied from Victor Hugo and his Time.

It should be noted one of my favorite poems by Hugo appeared in those ‘exercise books’.

0 thoughts on “Victor Hugo – the Sketch Artist

  1. DL Emerick

    I venture to guess that the apparent struggle in Hugo’s choice of style related to the forcing characteristics of poetic form, especially as poetry was understood in his own age.

    Indeed, if rhyme and meter and structure were all that poetry had as options, then some kinds of messages that you want to compose become contrived — forced to be said in a way that may be awkward and incovenient.

    The advantage of prose against poetry lies in this greater flexibility of prose: an almost utter chaos of form.

    Theoretically, I suppose, prose “form” permits us to say whatever it is that can be said, about anything. The writer is free, as it were, to form a style — any style — according to the dictates of his urge to make a message.

    Now, a co-incidental effect of seeing the poetry-prose distinction as a continuum of possible writings is that we can introduce “measures”, as it were, of the aspects of the formal (form of) a writing. The word measure, here as I use it, could also be implicated into a hierarchy of principles (genera) that organize rules (species). See, for example, As the picture on the right of that screen shows, there is considerable elaboration to the biological naming system. Read the related article in cladistics at, to see some of the latest improvements in the hierarchical form that we may, quite charitably, call the Tree of Life.

    Now, there is no stopping variations: to talk about all the world, logically, eventually everything (of “natural” physics) that ever comes to be, as a distinct recurring phenomena must fit (ie, be fitted) into such charts — including universes (we only know of 1?), galactic clusters, galaxies, star systems, planets, moons, asteroids, and such, all the way down to molecules of dust (atoms of creation?) — and then, back up, again, one way, as in mixtures, and up again, another way, as in the Tree of Life.

    Now, the (interesting?) creation(s) of man differ from that(those) of nature (sans man).

    Writing, as communicative activity — indeed, the whole Tree of language — may indeed involve some “deep structure principles” — even as it is conjectured, theories psycholinguistic and (or?) psychologic.

    We do know that we can compute some kinds of writing, ie to generate mechanically, the appearance of a message. Of course, the “machine” lacks any “motive”, except to satisfy the constraints placed upon it by the incident of a command to produce a writing — compute a message to be given.

    Writing is more illogical — or irrational — as it stands today, as a human practice.

    Taste is the underlying theme, of vague and indeterminate darkness, of all human creations.

    So, there is a sense, in the drawing by Hugo, of a chicken-egg question — for the chicken in the shell would be living in a dark world, though we know it would not appear to be a chicken as given by the writer.

    We would have to hyperbolically address the question, here, of what the drawing might be saying, about themes such as being in darkness and not knowing that you are there — and of springing forth from the shell and discarding the more limited view of life that always lies in some belief in a past darkness out of which one has come. And, too, one comes out of such darkness, into a world that seems to be of light.

    The fact would be, that we live all our lives in an infinite, perhaps, nest of shells — ever thinking we have finally emerged, into our “final” form, only to discover later that the supposed final “form” was yet “penultimate” to the present form.

    You’d think, after we experience this discovery, again and again, we would finally get the “message” of “life”, itself, that there is no final form, there is just continuation and variation.

    Now, if I had to say all that poetically, I suppose I could. But, poetry takes (me) time. I am acting, as it were, only by the duress or the force of trying to state my views as clearly as I can, relative to the occasion of their utterance.

    Thrre is no final utterance, there is just an apparent ending, which is the natural effect of time — and of a decision to transmit (to stop speaking) — and this is especially true of all writing (as opposed to all speech) — for speech is less punctuated, by the effects of time, than writing ever must be, in heeding transmission rules.

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