A plaque on a four-floor house at 4 Place des Barricades in Brussels reveals that the French writer Victor Hugo lived there with his family from 1866 to 1871. Hugo ate his meals on the ground floor and worked in a room on the first floor, standing at a lectern.
After visiting Hugo here, the young poet Paul Verlaine described the neighbourhood as ‘decorated with tolerably good tree-lined promenades, without commerce and entirely populated by the well-heeled bourgeoisie.’
In May 1871, after an uprising in Paris was crushed by the authorities, Hugo invited some of the agitators to his home. But local protestors hurled stones at the windows. King Leopold II decided it was time to expel the French writer from Brussels.
One of the last texts Victor Hugo wrote in the house on Place des Barricades was titled To the citizens of the United States of Europe. ‘Belgians, one day there will be a United States of Europe,’ he wrote.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.