'Scribbling' to Victor Hugo: The Letters of Juliette Drouet

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Romance Studies


By writing twice-daily love-letters, or 'scribbles' as she called them, to her lover, Victor Hugo, Juliette Drouet engaged in a practice that had been sanctioned by patriarchal tradition. Letter-writing had long been deemed a type of writing particularly suited to the perceived spontaneity and naturalness of women, and writing longing love-letters to absent lovers had been an essential component of the role of grande amoureuse since Ovid's Heroides had provided the model. Hugo's insistence on Drouet continuing to write letters to him, even when she wanted to stop, can be seen as an attempt to coerce from her the performance of this gendered activity. As a corollary, the posthumous interventions of executors, collectors, and editors can all be seen as attempts to shape Drouet's legacy into a recognizably conventional epistolary mould. Nevertheless, I would argue that letter-writing became a means for Drouet to voice her opinions and 'talk back' in a relationship in which she was otherwise condemned to silence and invisibility. Thus, although Drouet's epistolarity was a traditional response to constraints imposed on women in the sphere of writing and sexual relations, in her hands it became both a form of resistance and a subversive corrective to them.



Journal ISSN / Book ISBN

0263-9904, 1745-8153 (electronic)

Published Citation

Victoria Tietze Larson (2009) 'Scribbling' to Victor Hugo: The Letters of Juliette Drouet, Romance Studies, 27:2, 106-120, DOI: 10.1179/174581509X408477