Victor Hugo on John Brown: a NYABF Highlight
French author Victor Hugo was, it seems, a militant supporter of American abolitionist John Brown. A rare first edition of a pamphlet written by Hugo and retaining its original photograph of Hugo's striking line drawing of the 1859 hanging of Brown, is one of the highlights at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens tonight at 5 p.m.
Prior to Brown's execution, Hugo sent a letter to the London Evening News decrying the decision to hang Brown. He wrote:
"...When we reflect on what Brown, the liberator, the champion of Christ, has striven to effect, and when we remember that he is about to die, slaughtered by the American Republic, that crime assumes an importance co-extensive with that of the nation which commits it -- and when we say to ourselves that this nation is one of the glories of the human race; that, like France, like England, like Germany, she is one of the great agents of civilization; that she sometimes even leaves Europe in the rear by the sublime audacity of some of her progressive movements; that she is the Queen of an entire world, and that her brow is irradiated with a glorious halo of freedom, we declare our conviction that John Brown will not die; for we recoil horror-struck from the idea of so great a crime committed by so great a people...
For -- yes, let America know it, and ponder on it well -- there is something more terrible than Cain slaying Abel: It is Washington slaying Spartacus!"
These sentiments and others that followed were widely reprinted and then collected in this 1861 pamphlet, published in Paris. It will be offered at the book fair by Librairie Le Feu Follet for $3,000.
Images courtesy of the NYABF and Librairie Le Feu Follet