VICTOR HUGO'S long and chequered life (1802-85) was filled with experiences of the most diverse character - literature and politics, the court and the street, parliament and the theatre, labour, struggles, disappointments, exile and triumphs. ---
In 1855 he began a 15-year-long exile on the island of Guernsey, where he completed, among others, his longest and most famous work, Les Misérables (1862), and also The Man Who Laughs (L'Homme qui rit; 1869), also known as "By Order of the King", a historic novel with fictional characters, set in England 1688-1705. ---
.it will be seen that, here again, the story is admirably adapted to the moral. The constructive ingenuity exhibited throughout is almost morbid. Nothing could be more happily imagined. than the adventures of Gwynplaine, the itinerant mountebank, snatched suddenly out of his little way of life, and installed without preparation as one of the hereditary legislators of a great country. It is with a very bitter irony that the paper, on which all this depends, is left to float for years at the will of wind and tide. What, again, can be finer in conception than that voice from the people heard suddenly in the House of Lords, in solemn arraignment of the pleasures and privileges of its splendid occupants? The horrible laughter, stamped for ever "by order of the king" upon the face of this strange spokesman of democracy, adds yet another feature of justice to the scene; in all time, travesty has been the argument of oppression; and, in all time, the oppressed might have made this answer: "If I am vile, is it not your system that has made me so?"
---Robert Louis Stevenson