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Hugo, Abel (or Joseph-Abel) – French writer (1798-1855)

By Tim Mahon

Oldest brother to Victor Hugo, Abel was born in Paris on 15th November 1798, of général Joseph Léopold Hugo and Sophie Trébuchet. He was the only one of the boys who was baptised (in 1800, on the insistence of his grandmother from Nancy.) By 1809, in a Paris lycée, he was already showing signs of a literary talent. By 1811, along with his brothers, he was enrolled in the Collège des Nobles in Madrid, which he left to become a page to King Joseph. He returned to the Feuillantines convent (a home for Madame Hugo and her sons during the Napoleonic period) in October 1813 and in 1814 the comte d’Artois made him and his brothers each a chevalier de l’ordre du lys, in recognition of the part their mother played in the Malet Conspiracy.

Abel influenced and assisted his younger brother’s literary career and was godfather to Victor’s son Charles, born in 1826. He married Julie Duvidal de Montferrier on 20th December 1827, the couple having two sons, Léopold, born 11th September 1828 and Jules, born 2nd September 1835. Abel worked at the Revue des Deux Mondes from 1833 and published a number of varied works on widely differing subjects (see Bibliography below). He died in Paris on 7th February 1855, some records showing he died insane.

The frontispiece to one of his later works, France militaire, carries the following legend, signifying, perhaps, the characteristics of which he was most proud: “former officer of the general staff, member of several learned societies, author of a history of Napoleon.”


Hugo, Abel: Romances historiques traduites de l’espagnol, Paris, 1822

Hugo, Abel: Histoire de la campagne d’Espagne de 1823, 2 vols., Paris, 1824-1825

Hugo, Abel: Histoire de l’Empereur Napoléon, Paris, 1836

Hugo, Abel: France Pittoresque, 3 vols., Delloye, Paris, 1835

Hugo, Abel: France historique et monumentale, 5 vols., Paris, 1836-1843

Hugo, Abel: France militaire de 1792 à 1837, 5 vols., Delloye, Paris, 1838

Hugo, Abel: "Souvenirs et mémoires sur Joseph Napoléon", in Revue des Deux Mondes, tome 1, janvier-mars 1833

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2008


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