Stamps mark 150th Anniversary of Victor Hugo's Toilers of the Sea
Guernsey Post is delighted to announce the release
of a set of stamps to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the
publication of Toilers of the Sea,
written by Victor Hugo (stamp issue date – 6 May).
Victor Hugo came to Guernsey in 1855 as a political exile. A few months later he bought Hauteville House, which was to be his home for the next fourteen years and where he spent almost every morning in his ‘look-out’ at the top of the house.
From Hauteville House, Hugo saw ships coming and going, sometimes ships in distress, and shipwrecks. In 1859 he spent a holiday in Sark where his son, Charles, tangled with an octopus, which gave him the idea for a novel; in 1864 Hugo began to write The Toilers of the Sea.
Gilliatt the seafarer finds his name traced in snow by Déruchette, the niece of Lethierry, a shipbuilder hoping to make his fortune with a steamship, the Durande. The ship’s captain is Clubin, who is apparently a good man (43 pence stamp).
Lethierry hears that the Durande has been wrecked on the Roches Douvres. He promises that the man who salvages the engines will marry Déruchette. Gilliatt promptly sets out alone and finds the Durande suspended between two perpendicular rocks (57 pence).
Gilliatt scales the Great Douvre and makes a shelter. At nightfall a large black circle revolves around his head created by a halo of darkness made up of seabirds returning to find their home occupied (58 pence).
The salvage operation is threatened when a storm starts to break up the Durande. Gilliatt seizes an axe and shapes the timbers so that they fall, shielding the engines and his boat (64 pence).
Gilliatt dives into a cave and is surprised by a ‘devil fish’ octopus that threatens to kill him, although Gilliatt expertly kills the monster (70 pence).
In the cave Gilliatt finds the corpse of Clubin, together with a fortune belonging to Lethierry. Clubin had intended to wreck the Durande on the Hanois, fake his death, and escape to South America with Lethierry’s money. However, the plan failed as he wrecked the Durande on the Douvres, too far from Guernsey to swim ashore.
Gilliatt returns triumphant but discovers that Déruchette has fallen in love with someone else. Gilliatt helps the couple to marry and sail away on the Cashmere. From Gild-Holm-Ur, his rock seat, Gilliatt watches the departing ship. He remains motionless and is engulfed by the rising tide (78 pence).
Bridget Yabsley, acting head of philatelic at Guernsey Post said: -
“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to feature depictions from Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea, or Les Travailleurs de la Mer. Written entirely during his exile in Guernsey and dedicated to the island, many of its plots and stories reflect what was happening on in the island at that time.”
The stamps are available to pre-order from 4 April by contacting Philatelic Customers Services on (01481) 716486 or by visiting www.guernseystamps.com
Press enquiries to:
Sarah Amies, pr consultant, 01484 687040/07811 133973
Bridget Yabsley, acting head of philatelic at Guernsey Post, 01481 733550
Notes to editors:
· From 2-10 April, Guernsey will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Toilers of the Sea, with a festival organised by The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society with support from Visit Guernsey, the Guernsey Arts Commission and Hauteville House.
· The Festival programme, which explores some of the historic events that influenced the book and also celebrates Victor Hugo’s life and works, includes a lunchtime lecture by illustrator Keith Robinson who will talk about how he came up with the stamp designs for Guernsey Post’s commemorative issue. Tickets for this and other events may be purchased online at www.guernseytickets.gg or in person at the Visitor Information Bureau.
· Hugo had a profound love of the scenery of Guernsey and this is reflected in some of the closing paragraphs of The Toilers of the Sea. Hugo also appreciated the islanders and their love of liberty. He honoured Guernsey’s people by dedicating The Toilers of the Sea to them: -
I dedicate this book to the rock of hospitality and liberty,
that corner of old Norman soil where dwells that noble little people of the sea,
to the island of Guernsey, austere and gentle,
my present asylum, my probable tomb.