About Julienne Jospehine Guavain Drouet
Julienne Jospehine Guavain Drouet, later known as Mademoiselle Juliette, was born on the 10th of April in 1806, the daughter of a humble tailor and a housemaid. She grew up in the suburbs of her father's town, on the road between Fourgeres and Autrain. She was proud of her humble origins and wrote on an occasion: "I am of the people,", as if in these three words lay the explanation behind her independence, her fiery temper, and her impulsive nature.
Certainly, Mademoiselle possessed a wild nature; before she met Victor Hugo, Juliette had at least four lovers. She modeled for James Pradier, who thought himself as her guardian. He would sign his letters to Juliette, "your friend, lover, and father". Along with advice, he gave to her a child, Claire, whom Victor later grew to love as his own. Her lovers also included the millionaire Prince Anatole Demidov-a smutty little man who set her up in an apartment in the Rue de L'Echiquier, Alphonse Karr, a journalist who borrowed all her money and never paid it back. To insure herself against poverty, Juliette made her lovers overlap (Robb, 181), and it was she who taught Victor the actress's proverb "A woman who has one lover is an angel, a woman who has two lovers is a monster, and a woman who has three lovers is a woman" (Robb, 181)
To Paris society, she was a typical courtesan, a mediocre actress, a brilliant dresser, and a fluent spender, equally familiar with pawn-shops and casinos, physically confident with boisterous sense of humor, unashamed to show her plebeian origins, and of course, amazingly beautiful.
And indeed, Juliette was beautiful. Her age, condition, manner of life, had made of her a woman, while her smile and movements kept her still a girl. Her face presented a perfect image of calmness and purity. Theophile Gautier once wrote this fulsome description of her to please Victor Hugo:
"Madamoiselle Juliette's countenance is of a regular and delicate beauty; the nose chiseled and of handsome outline, the eyes limpid and diamond-bright; the mouth moistly crimson, and tiny even in her gayest fits of laughter. These features charming in themselves, are set in an oval of the suavest and most harmonious form. A clear, serene forehead like the marble of a Greek temple crowns this delicious face; abundant black hair with wonderful reflections in it, brings out the diaphanous and lustrous purity of her complexion…" (Gimbaud, 26)
Juliet had known many lovers, but her one desire had remained unmet since she first dreamed it at sixteen. She yearned to become the passionate companion of an honest man. She gave herself to her lovers, and many lovers she had during her lifetime, but in her eyes it was clear that she still sought that perfect one whom she could love and be assured that that love would be returned. She needed Hugo as much as he needed her.
Juliette entered Hugo's life at a time when he was deepest in despair. Love and friendship had failed Victor Hugo altogether, and he was disillusioned to find that the love of his life had betrayed him. Adele, his childhood sweetheart, had betrayed him, and this betrayal was too painful for him to bear: " I have acquired the conviction that it is possible for the one who possesses all my love, to cease to care of me. I am no longer happy." (Gimbaud, 22). Hugo describes feeling a sensation of rebirth, an emergence of a new Victor Hugo because of his new love for Juliette. She was among the cast in Lucrece Borgia at the Porte-Saint-Martin. Hugo gave her a minor part of the Princess Negroni. She was more beautiful than she was talented, and proved to be a clumsly actress, but Hugo, blinded by love, was oblivious to this fact. Exactly a fortnight after the premiere, on February 16, 1833, Juliette became Hugo's mistress. Adele's betrayal killed the Romantic poet's heart, but Juliette's love brought him back.
Hugo placed Juliette in an isolated house at Les Metz, a hamlet two-and-a-half miles away from his home with Adele. Nearly everyday, they met halfway between the two; at an old hollow chestnut tree in the woods, and in the hollow trunk Juliette used to leave her messages and Hugo left his letters and poems there.
However, their love was far from the ideal love that Hugo wrote about. There were many financial problems in their relationship. An especially recurrent problem was one of finance. Because of her extravagant tastes in clothing, Juliette was up to her neck with debts and creditors. When she confessed she was in debt to Hugo, the miser, this brought on daily quarrels between the lovers.
However, their love proved to be resistant to argument and quarrels. The love was sincere and the love was mutual. On 19, February, the first anniversary of their love affair, Hugo assured her: "Heaven has made my hands to mend your half-ruined life, my soul to understand your heart, and my lips to kiss your feet" (Richardson, 69). He loved with such fervor that he came to believe that he must redeem her. For nearly two years, he was to practice his half-religious, half-philosophical theories on the courtesan. Juliette became a Romantic heroine, a fallen woman whose salvation lay in a single heartfelt love.