The Letters of Victor Hugo From Exile, and After the Fall of the Empire
Translated by Paul Meurice
Albert Caise had published a genealogy of Victor Hugo in which be assigned him the arms of the Hugos of Lorraine. An anonymous writer discussed this in the Figaro asking where Hugo, Bishop of Ptolemais, was to be placed in the genealogy.
To Albert Caise
Hauteville House, 20th March 1867
The point raised by the anonymous writer to whom you refer admits of the simplest explanation. These matters are of very slight importance, but what is certain is that you are right and that the anonymous writer is not wrong. The relationship to the Bishop of Ptolemais is a tradition in my family. I never knew more than what my father told me about it. M Bury, formerly a notary at Epinal, sent me some documents of his own accord which are among my papers. Personally I do not attach any importance to genealogical questions. The man is what he is; his value is what he has done. Beyond this all that is added to or taken from him is nothing. Hence my absolute contempt for genealogies.
The Hugos from whom I am descended are I believe a younger and possibly illegitimate branch which had come down in the world through poverty and misery. A Hugo was a breaker up of boats on the Moselle. Mme de Graffigny (Francoise Hugo, wife of the chamberlain of Lorraine) addressed him as my cousin. The “wise and witty anonymous writer” is right; there were a shoemaker and a bishop, beggars and prelates, in my family. This is more or less the case with everybody. There are very curious instances of it in the Channel Islands (see Les Travailleurs de la Mer – Tangrouille) In other words I am not a Tangroville. I am a Tangrouille. I have no objection. If I could choose my forbears I would rather have a hard working cobbler for an ancestor than a lazy king.