‘I gave my two little ones their first Latin lesson. I made Georges recite Amo, I love, and Jeanne, Rosa, the rose. They laughed, those sweet creatures.’ Choses vues, 18 June 1875
This strong and floriferous fuchsia was bred by Masse/Delhommeau in France. It calls to mind Victor Hugo’s only grand-daughter Jeanne Hugo, whose father was Hugo’s eldest son, Charles, and her elder brother, Georges.
Whenever I have any free time I take little Georges and little Jeanne out for a walk. You could describe me thus: ‘Victor Hugo, peoples’ representative and children’s nanny.’ Choses vues (Things Seen), Brussels, March 1871
Jeanne Hugo was the beloved granddaughter of Victor Hugo. Hugo lost both his daughters: Léopoldine, who drowned at the age of 19, and Adele who fled home at the age of 33 and whose metal health problems meant she was never to return to live with the Hugo family again. His lover Juliette Drouet had also lost her daughter, Claire Pradier, to whom Hugo had acted as a stepfather, at the age of 20. Jeanne was a new hope. Hugo believed in a sort of reincarnation; he may have seen in Jeanne the rebirth of his beloved Léopoldine. He became the guardian of Jeanne and her brother Georges when their father died; their mother, although devoted to the Hugo family, was very young. Georges was two years older than Jeanne. Their elder brother, also called Georges, had died as a baby, causing Victor Hugo much grief. His own first son, Léopold, had died before his first birthday.
Georges and Jeanne lived a life of luxury and were left very wealthy when their grandfather died. They were socialites who spent their time amongst the cultural and political elite of France, but they were immortalised as little children in their grandfather’s poetry, especially in the collection The Art of Being a Grandfather, published in 1877, which was universally popular and made them household names. They spent holidays in Guernsey and as young adults brought their friends with them from Paris. They stayed in Hauteville House, which they had inherited, while their friends lodged at 20 Hauteville, Juliette Drouet’s former residence, which Hugo had also left to them in his will. They made few alterations to Hauteville House. Eventually, after Georges’ death, they gave the house to the City of Paris to be a museum.
The Victor Hugo Garden contains several botanical tributes to Jeanne Hugo: this fuchsia, Clematis ‘Jeanne’s Pink’, and Auricula ‘Jeanne’.