Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage

A research guide in association with the State Library of Victoria exhibition. This guide provides links and research advice to help you find out more about Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, and the history, politics and art of 19th-century France.

Hugo's influence on literature

Victor Hugo Oeuvres complètes, Poesie I

Oeuvres complètes, poesie I p 3

Victor Hugo was a leading figure in the French romantic movement through his creative work as poet, novelist and dramatist

To find the literary works of Victor Hugo held in the Library enter his name in the large search box, click on 'Anywhere in the record', use the drop down menu to change your selection to 'Author/Creator', and click the 'Search' button. You will find the deluxe edition of The works of Victor Hugo  and also Oeuvres complètes published in 43 volumes between 1885 and 1895, within the results list.

Works about Hugo can be found in the same manner described above but use the drop down menu to choose 'Subject'. Amongst others, you will find Cloudy trophy: the romance of Victor Hugo based on the collected correspondence of Victor Hugo

If you are a registered user, you can request these items to read in the Library

Below you can explore how Hugo's writing influenced his contemporaries including Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, George Eliot and Marcus Clarke or find and read online articles about the continuing effect many characters in Les Misérables have in diverse spheres

Les Misérables

Les Miserables manuscript

Les Misérables - original manuscript

This section concentrates on ways to explore aspects of one of the most important 19th-century literary works, Hugo's Les Misérables

French and English translations of Les Misérables can be found through an author and title search, see Les Misérables (1887) in French and English.

The five volumes of Les Misérables were published between 3 April and 30 June 1862.  Despite the novel's immediate popularity, the initial reviews were mixed, see these examples:

Characters from Les Misérables have been the inspiration for authors across many disciplines. A  search of our databases, combining the names of the main characters with the work Les Misérables can uncover journal, magazine and newspaper articles in related or seemingly unrelated fields. For instance a search of Les Misérables and Cosette, brings back a range of articles including

From Cosette to Climbie: 'progress is the aim, the ideal is the model' by A. N. Williams in Archives of Disease in Childhood, July 2003, vol. 88 (7), p. 562. This article focuses on the character of Cosette as an archetype for child health care professionals in protecting children today

Victor Hugo can't rest in peace, as a sequel makes trouble by Alan Riding in the New York Times, 29 May 2001, vol. 150 (51768), p.B1. An article about the controversy over the book 'Cosette or the time of illusions' by Francois Ceresa written recently as a sequel to Les Misérables and his plans for the release of the sequel to Cosette titled 'Marius or the fugitive'.

See also these searches for:

Add additional terms such as novel or literature or use the options at left of the search screen to narrow your search.

Hugo's poetry and drama

To place Victor Hugo's poetry and drama within the context of 19th-century French literature  search our Library catalogue combining the terms 'French poetry' or 'French drama' and '19th century'

Victor Hugo Oeuvres complètes,  Souvenir d'Enfance

Souvenir d'Enfance from Ouevres complètes, poesie II p361

To find Hugo's poems, plays and their adaptations do a  search of our Library catalogue under Victor Hugo poetry or Victor Hugo drama, for example you will find Selected poems and tragedies by Victor Hugo, translated by Bishop Alexander (1890) or Alfred Tennyson's homage To Victor Hugo in Ballads and other poems

Victor Hugo Oeuvres complètes,  La Captive

La Captive from Ouevres complètes, poesie II p 78

E Journals and databases

These can be accessed in the Library and Victorian registered users can access them outside the Library.

Les Misérables' influence on 19th-century authors

Two of Victor Hugo's contemporary writers, Alexandre Dumas and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, left their homelands due to political and social upheaval and subsequently wrote tales of injustice. Others such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Marcus Clarke wrote about the poor and oppressed in England and Australia. Each was influenced by Victor Hugo's works especially Les Misérables. Biographical eresources listed below will help you find out more about these authors.

Victor Hugo Oeuvres complètes,Clair de Lune

Clair de Lune from Ouevres complètes, poesie II p 81


The lives of literary greats such as Hugo, Dumas, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Eliot and Marcus Clarke can be found in biographical resources at the Library. The Library also has several online biographical databases.

These can be accessed in the Library and Victorian registered users can access them outside the Library.

For Marcus Clarke use Australian databases such as:

Literature criticism and reviews

Comparisons can be made between Hugo's Les Misérables and Dumas'  The Count of Monte Cristo and The three musketeers, Dostoyevsky's Crime and punishment, Dickens' Oliver Twist and A tale of two cities and Eliot's Middlemarch. Like Hugo's Les Misérables set in Paris, Dickens revealed to readers how the poor were abused and crime flourished on the streets of London. Marcus Clarke's His natural life contains thematic elements from Les Misérables and other classics such as The Count of Monte Cristo, Mutiny on the bounty and Robinson Crusoe.

Some comparative articles include:

To find copies of the works listed above including adaptations, abridgements, music and musicals search our catalogue combining the author's name and the title. We hold a picture book version of Oliver Twist finds a home (2002), a musical of A tale of two cities and the 1874 edition of His natural life.

Use a selection of eresources listed below to find reviews and critiques to help you understand the relationship between any of these titles and Hugo's Les Misérables.

Victor Hugo:

Les Misérables

From Page to Stage

Les Miserables website image


18 July to 9 November 2014

Daily 10am–6pm, Thurs 9pm

An exhibition at the
State Library of Victoria

Picture Gallery


Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean

Valjean at his door Plate by lix.
  Les Misérables (1887) vol 4, p 387

To stage



Normie Rowe becomes Jean Valjean


Courtesy of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive,
Pictures Collection,
State Library of Victoria