Victor Hugo was born in Besancon, France, on 26th February, 1802. The son of a general, Hugo was educated in Paris and Madrid. Although trained as a lawyer, Hugo wanted to be a writer and as well as producing poems and plays, he founded and edited a literary journal Conservateur Littéraire (1819-21).
Hugo's first book of poems, Odes et Ballades, was published in 1822. This was followed by Han d'Islande (1823), Nouvelles Odes (1824), Bug-Jagal (1824) and a second set of Odes et Ballades (1826).
Hugo political beliefs became increasingly more radical and in 1827 he published the verse drama, Cromwell. In the play's long preface, Hugo argued that literature should deal with the contradictions of human existence. This was followed by Orientales (1828), The Last Days of a Condemned (1829), a protest novel about capital punishment, and Hernani (1830), a play about an outlaw in conflict with society.
In 1831 Hugo published his novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831). Set in medieval Paris, the book's central character, Quasimodo, captured the public's imagination and the book became a great success. Over the next few years Hugo wrote several plays including The King's Fool (1832), Angelo, Tyrant of Padua (1835) and Ruy Blas (1838). He also published four books of poems: Autumn Leaves (1831), Songs of Twilight (1835), Inner Voices (1837) and Sunlight and Shadows (1840).
Hugo's became increasingly involved in republican politics and after the 1848 Revolution he was elected a deputy for Paris in the Constituent Assembly. Hugo became interested in the philosophy of pacifism and in 1851 took part in the International Peace Congress in Paris where he called for the creation of a United States of Europe. Hugo was also a member of the Legislative Assembly but was forced to flee the country in 1852 after Emperor Napoleon III gained power.
Hugo lived in Brussels for a year before moving to the island of Jersey in the English Channel. Expelled from Jersey in 1855, Hugo went to live on the neighbouring island of Guernsey.
In exile Hugo produced Napoléon le Petit (1852), Les Châtiments (1853), Les Contemplations (1856) and the extremely popular novel, Les Misérables (1862), a story of a man who has been imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.
Hugo's later works included the essay, William Shakespeare (1864) and three novels, The Toilers of the Sea (1866), The Man Who Laughs (1869) and Ninety-Three (1874). Victor Hugo died in Paris on 22nd May, 1885.