Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

15 articles on this Page




[No title]


[No title]








VICTOR HUGO'S CHRISTMAS FETE. Its now ten years since a protest published against a violation of the sacred right of asylum was made a pretext to drive from the island of Jersey the Frenchmen who had sought refuge there after the ooup d'etat of December, 1851. To that act of expul- sion the sister island of Guernsey owes to-day the immense honour of sheltering one of the master minds of Europe—Victor Hugo. In this beautiful little isle of the Norman Archi- pelago the latest works of his imagination have been written, and it is to Guernsey, as the rock of hospi- tality and of liberty," that he has dedicated the last of his books, the "Toilers of the Sea." But it is not only in wreathing round her rooks the flowers of his genius that Victor Hugo tenders to his asylum thanks for her hospitality.. Guernsey gives to the exiled poet a refuge, the poet, gives to the poor of Guernsey a tender and generous assistance, and his name is as well known amongst the destitute children of Porte St. Pierre, whom he makes the sharers of his bounty, as his fame is familiar to the thinking portion of mankind, who know him through his genius. "Poor children are, perhaps, the most affecting objects on the earth; to them we owe benevolence and succour." These were his words, and they have not been the mere expression of useless sympathy, for once every week some twenty-two poor children assemble to a substantial dinner in his house, and at the end of December takes place the annual feast, and distribution of clothing, which may be called the Christmas number of the preat writer's charitable works. There is no selection amongst these children on account of creed or country. Channel islanders, English, French, and Irish (the last are not the fewest), are all welcome, and the sole claim to hospitality is to want it. It is now fiveears since this little institution of a fortnightly dinner was first established by M. Hugo, and each year he has had the satisfaction of seeing his example more widely followed in different parts of Europe by many who wish to benefit their suffering fellow-creatures. On Thursday last, the 27th December, the annual Christum fere took place at Hauteville-house, in Guernsey. There were assembled some 42 poor children, varying in age from-thre8 to twelve years; all looked happy and joyous, and seemed perfectly at home in the honse, and in the presence of their host. The fete was divided into three parts, an excellent lunch, a distribution of clothing, and a Christmas- tree. Previous to the distribution Viator Hugo ad. dressed his guests and visitors in the following words:— Ladies and Gentlemen,— You are aware of the object of this little meeting. It is what, for want of a better term, I call the festival of poor little children. I desire to speak of it in the humblest terms, and with thiB feeling I would barrow the simplicity of one of those little ones who now hear me. To do gaodto poor children, as far ,as I am able, is the object that I have in view. Believe me there is no merit in the act, and what 1 say I sincerely mean. There is no merit in. doing for the poor what we can, for what we can do it is a duty to do. Do you know anything more sad than the sufferings of children? When we Puffer--we who are men—we suffer justly, we endure nothing but what we deserve, but children are inno- cent, and saffenng innooence—■ is it not the saddest thing in nature ? Here Providence entrusts as with a portion of its own functions. God says to man-I eonfide to thee the child. And he does not confide to us our own children alone—for it is simply natural that we should have care for them—and the brute obeys this law of nature, better sometimes than man himself. God entrusts us with all the children that suffer. To be the father—-the mother of poor children —tfejs is our highest mission. To have towards them the parental feeling is to have a fraternal feeling towards humanity." M. Hugo tbea explained the idea which first led him to establish this fortnightly dinner, an idea, he said, which had its origin in a report upon the diet of poor children made 18 years ago by the Medical Academy of Pa/fig. "But," coEtiuuod M. Hugo, "engrossed, when ia France, by the business of public life, I had no time for establishing dinners for poor children. Profiting, however, by the leisure which exile has given me in Guernsey, I have carried the idea into execution. Believing that if a good dinner once a month could do so much good, agood dinner once a fortnight would do still more, I have fed 42 children, 21 of whom como to me every week. Moreover, when the end of the year arrives I wish to give them the little pleasure which the children of the rich find in their own homes; I wish that they also may have their Christmas. This little fete is composed of three parta-a luncheon, a distribution of clothing, and a distribution of toys, for-joy i« an element of chil- dren's health. Therefore it is that I dedicate to them annually a Christmas tree. This is the fifth celebra- tion of the fete. And now why do I say all this ? The only merit in a good action (if there be a good action) is to say nothing about it. I should, in fact, be silent if I thought only of myself. But my object is not merely to do good to 40 children. My abject, above all, is to set a useful example. This is my sole excuse." „ „ In support of the beneficial effects attending the adoption of this system in other countries, M, Hugo read extracts from two n-ewspapers-the Petit Journal and the Times. The-treasurer of the Ragged Children's Dinner Fund, writing to the last-named paper, had stated that during the late epidemic in London not one death from cholera had taken place among two hundred poor children who had thus been nourished. Upon this faet the speaker laid great importance, and, after expressing a hope that the" mournful. and de- plorable word 'ragged "would soon disappear from the noble English langaage, he thus concluded: This, ladies and gentlemen, this is my excuse for describing to you what takes place here. This is what justifies the publicity given to the dinner to the 40 children. It is that from this humble origin there arises a oonaiderable amelioration in the condition of suffering. innocence. To relieve e&ildren-to train them into men-rneh is our duty. I will add but one word more. There are two ways ef building oharehes. They may be built of Storm-they. may be built.of 1 flesh and bonei The poor whom you have "SUOOOured are a church that you have bailt from wheace prayer • and gratitude ascend to God." Many know the marvels oi Victor Hugo s pen; few are acquainted with the magic of his voice, and, only,I those who have heard lam apeak in public can realise to its full extent an utterance wfcfoh vibrates ih singnlar nnison with every thought which it expresses. singnlar nnison with every thought which it expresses. In Hauteville-house, on Thursday last, all stood upon the same level of equality, no invitations were issued, the doors were open to whoever thought fit to enter, and the only reserved places were for the poor. It seemed a place where class distinctions were for a time at leaett forgotten, and all met together, without sar; prise or embarrassment, on the neutral ground of a great man's humanity.



[No title]