Adele Hugo’s life has always been surrounded by mystery. The daughter of the famous French writer Victor Hugo had an extremely harsh life and ultimately she was committed to an insane asylum at the age of 41.
When she was 16 she fell in love with Auguste Vacquerie who was 26 years old. They were unable to get married immediately so they had to wait. Unfortunately she gradually fell out of love with him until she reached her twenties. She received many marriage proposals but refused them all. She also had many crushes her parents did not agree with such as the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Clesinger and the man who became the source of all her sadness, Albert Andrew ("Bertie") Pinson.
Lieutenant Pinson was much older than Adele and he was considered handsome and a ladies man. After they met, he regularly visited her and even proposed but she refused. However, they seem to have been very much in love with each other and she also visited him to
a couple of times. But it seems that his love was not like in the beginning and his attentions to her began to diminish. They had met in 1854 and it was in 1861 when he was ordered to move his regimen to England . London
Her parents were reticent when it came to Pinson because he was known to be a womanizer, a gambler in debt, and had bad temper. She became more and more infatuated with him but when discussing the marriage issue with her parents, they advised her to marry him in
, where they lived. But Adele did not agree with that and she decided she would follow him to Brussels , thus being against not only her parents’ wishes but also the social rules of women at that time. Her mother, however, agreed that she would accompany her to London London but when they arrived they learned that he had moved to deserting her. She returned to Halifax for a year and despite the evidence that Pinson was not infatuated with her anymore, she became more and more obsessed with him. Brussels
She decided to go to
Halifax, making her family believe that she was going to meet a family member in Europe. When she arrived she registered herself as Miss Lewly but soon she would refer to herself as Madame Pinson. She lived in Halifax Hotel for a while but to preserve her money she moved with the Saunders family. She was described as a mysterious and isolated woman. Nobody knew at that time that she was the daughter of the famous writer Victor Hugo. She wrote to her family regularly and lied that she was married to Pinson. She also received money regularly.
Most of the time she tried to contact Pinson: she wrote him daily she tried to meet him but it seemed that he had absolutely no interest for her. Although at first he did visit her and answered her letters, soon he started ignoring her and her advances. But she was determined to make him love her so she pursued him night and day. She even went so far as disguising herself as a male while stalking him.
Her mental illness started to show, she refused eating, took little care of herself, and her physical health also started degrading. The Saunders heard her all night walking and talking to herself in her room.
Pinson had a pretty bad reputation in
also, he engaged Agnes Johnson, but the family soon decided that he was not what they wanted for their daughter. Halifax
In 1866, he moved with his unit to
Barbados and Adele, while still being extremely obsessed with him, also went to . There she moved in Mrs. Chadderton’s residence but her behavior was similar to the one she had in Barbados : she would write continuously in her journal, she wandered the streets to look for her lover, and she was isolated. It is not known if she met Pinson there, but soon she became the object of ridicule because of her behavior and way she dressed. Pinson soon went to Halifax England and married Catherine Edith Roxburgh while Adele was still in . She met a woman who took care of her and brought her back to Barbados . Her father committed her in a mental institution and she lived there all her life. Here is what he wrote in his diary: France
"I saw her again [in the mental institution]. She did not recognize [Francois-]Victor. She recognized me. I embraced her. I spoke words of tenderness and hope to her. She was calm and seemed, sometimes, to be asleep. It is just one year ago today that I left for
with Charles, who would not return alive. Today I see Adele again. What sorrow." Bordeaux
It is believed that Adele suffered from schizophrenia and she might have inherited it from her family(her father’s brother had the same condition). However, her tumultuous life might have contributed to the degradation of her mental health: the death of her sister, her unrequited love, the death of her two brothers, and the pressure that society had on women back in those days.
There's also a great movie about her called The History of Adele H. - here's the trailer:
It's dubbed in English, but the best version is the original English-French one so try to find that version.