Our story takes place in the middle of the 19th century, a period of revolution: social, industrial and political. Men abandoned modes of life and ways of thought which had prevailed with little change for generations. As W. Somerset Maugham observed1: it was a period when old beliefs were no longer unquestioningly accepted; there was great ferment in the air; life for most was a new and exciting adventure. It was a period, too, which was conducive to the production of exceptional characters and of exceptional works. One of these exceptional characters of the 19th century was Victor Hugo, a "vague and a remote figure," a little discussed author; and yet, "one of the greatest men of letters that Europe has seen."2
Before getting into our story, it is best that we consider two side-topics so to better understand it: France, Revolutionary France, as it was during the first and middle parts of the 19th century; and, The 19th Century Woman.