Victor Hugo’s powerful, poignant last words

Christopher Hooton in The Independent:

Victor-hugoThe Frenchman was a poet, artist and novelist by the age of 30 and also contributed The Hunchback of Notre-Dame to the literary canon, but he is remembered as a politician or even a saint as much as he is a man of words. He was a fierce human rights activist and, after being elected to France's National Assembly in 1848, dissented from conservatives and called for universal suffrage, free education for all children, and an end to poverty. He became such an icon and champion of the poor in France that on his 80th birthday on 27 June, 1881 paraders marched past his house, where he was sat at a window, for six hours. Avenue d'Eylau on which Hugo lived was the next day changed to Avenue Victor-Hugo, and the story goes that all future letters sent to the author were addressed: "To Mister Victor, In his avenue, Paris".

Hugo would only live four more years but was an activist to the end, requesting a pauper's funeral (though he was awarded a state funeral by decree of President Jules Grévy) and saying in his five-line will: "I leave 50,000 francs to the poor. I want to be buried in their hearse. I refuse [funeral] orations of all churches. I beg a prayer to all souls. I believe in God."

More here.