As he was on his way to the maid’s room, he came across a little boy who would tell this story for the rest of his life.
The boy looked at Hugo in awe. The boy thought this old man with white hair and beard was God.
Hugo pointed to his erect penis and told the boy that it was rare in someone his age. Then he took the boy’s hand and put it on his penis and said, “When you grow up, tell people you held Victor Hugo’s machine.” (I hope my translation of the French is accurate.)
The man was amazing.
UPDATE: I checked Paul Johnson’s Creators to see if I got the story right. I got a few details wrong. In the interest of accuracy, I quote Paul Johnson at length:
When I was a young man living in Paris in the early 1950’s, I was given an unforgettable picture of the elderly Hugo’s sexuality by an old society gentleman who, as a small boy, had been a visitor at a chateau, along with Hugo, in 1884. In those days, children and women servants had rooms on the attic floor, which was uncarpeted and Spartan (the male servants slept in the basement). He said he got up very early one summer morning, being bored, and went out into the corridor, the unvarnished boards under his feet, the strong sunlight slanting through the windows at a low angle, picking out the motes of dust. He was, perhaps, four. Suddenly an old man hove into sight, striding purposefully along, white-bearded, eyes penetrating and fierce, wearing a nightshirt. The boy did not know at the time, but surmised later, thinking of the episode, that Victor Hugo had risen early too, having noted a pretty serving girl handing plates at dinner the night before; had, possibly, made an assignation with her; and anyway was now in search of her bedroom. The old man, whom the boy thought was possibly God, paused in his stride, seized the boy’s hand, and, lifting his nightshirt, placed the hand on his large, rampant member and said: “Tiens, mon petit. Il parait que c’est tres rare a mon age. Alors, en temps d’avenir tu auras le droit a dire a tes petits-enfants, que tu a tenu en ton p’tit main, le machin de Victor Hugo, poete!” Then he lowered his nightshirt and strode off down the corridor, in search of his prey.
In a footnote Johnson adds:
The story may be bien trouve rather than exact. When I lived in Paris, there were still people who had know acquaintances of Hugo and his family, and such stories abounded. I have forgotten the name of my informant, but he had held a high post in the administration of the former royal palaces of France.
(I'm sorry I don't know how to do the diacritical marks in the french. Anyone who can give me a literal translation of the french, I would appreciate it.)
I believe the story because I want to believe it. It’s too great not to be true!
Incidentally, before I remembered where I read that story, I searched my books looking for it. One book I looked in was The Essential Victor Hugo. This book has selections of Hugo’s poetry and essays, but none of his plays and no passages from his fiction that show his greatest talent, his plot writing. It is remarkable that a book called The Essential Victor Hugo has everything except the essential Victor Hugo.