Monday, October 20, 2008

The Story of Adele H

In 1851, Victor Hugo was forced to leave France and take refuge on the British island of Guernsey. While there, his daughter, Adele, fell in love with a British officer, Lieutenant Pinson, of the 16th Hussars.

In 1862, the American Civil War had led to blockades of southern ports, cutting off supplies of raw cotton to Britain's mills. Britain decided to rattle her sabre to show her displeasure, and the 16th Hussars were dispatched to Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was intended as a warning to Washington: allow shipments of cotton to resume, or Britain might intervene on the side of the Confederacy.

Adele pursues Lt. Pinson to Halifax, traveling under an assumed name, "Miss Lewly".

Adele is a very beautiful young lady. But she is also Bat. Shit. Crazy.

She explains to her new friends that the man she is looking for is, variously, the fiancé of her niece, her cousin, her sister's brother-in-law, or the son of their village clergyman.

One morning she passes a British officer. She spins around and follows him. She taps on his shoulder and he turns around. And look who it is! Yes, it's that French scientist-guy from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

When they finally do meet, she frantically, desperately begs him to love her.

Then she screams that she will ruin him and his military career.

Then she offers him money to love her. All in about thirty seconds. It's quite a scene.

Her condition deteriorates.

His unit is transferred to Barbados, and she follows him there.

But her deterioration is now so severe that when she meets him for the last time, she doesn't even recognize him.

Nearly destitute, she is taken in by an ex-slave, Madame Baa, who helps her return to France. Adele spent the last 40 years of her life in a private clinic in Saint-Mande.

Victor Hugo died in 1885. His last words were, "I see a black light." His body lay in state under the Arc d'Triomphe and the next day two million people lined the route of the cortège to the Panthéon. He shares a crypt with Emile Zola and Alexandre Dumas.

Adele died on April 25, 1915. Fifty years earlier, as she was about to leave Guernsey, she wrote in her journal, "This incredible thing, that a young girl should step over the ocean, leave the old world for the new world, to join her lover, this thing I will accomplish."

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