Besides his rather prolific output in the field of poetry, Victor Hugo achieved prominence in two other genres as well. His novels, for which he is best known in the United States, span most of his literary career and include such recognizable titles as Le Dernier Jour d’un condamné (1829; The Last Day of a Condemned, 1840), Notre-Dame de Paris (1831; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1833), and Les Misérables (1862; English translation, 1862). Hugo was a successful playwright in his time, but only Hernani (pr., pb. 1830; English translation, 1830) has received sustained attention. The preface to his play Cromwell (pb. 1827; English translation, 1896), however, is frequently studied by scholars because of its attack on the three unities, so long observed by French classical writers, and because of Hugo’s elaboration on his theory of the union of the grotesque and the sublime. His other plays are a mise en oeuvre of the dramatic principles found in the Cromwell preface.
Although less well known as an essayist, Hugo did write in the genre. His better-known essay collections include Le Rhin (1842; The Rhine, 1843), William Shakespeare (1864; English translation, 1864), Choses vues (1887; Things Seen, 1887), and En voyage: Alpes et Pyrénées (1890; The Alps and Pyrenees, 1898). Hugo also wrote and delivered a number of political speeches in the Chambre des Pairs. Among these are the “Consolidation et défense du littoral,” which was delivered in the summer of 1846, “La Famille Bonaparte,” which was delivered the following spring, and “Le Pape Pie IX,” which was presented in January, 1848.