In the foreword to my copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Elizabeth Massie writes this:

Victor Hugo's early novel, Notre Dame de Paris, published in 1831 and set in medieval Paris of 1482, was the work that made his reputation outside his native France. First translated into English in 1833 by William Hazlitt the Younger as Notre Dame of Paris, the novel was released only a few months later in a second translation as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and has been known to English speakers by this title ever since.

Why was this title changed? Why not keep the title more accurate to the original French title?


1 Answer 1


In Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen, it's claimed that:

The original title of Hugo's work was Notre Dame de Paris, making no mention of the disfigurement of Quasimodo, highlighting that the cathedral itself, rather than Quasimodo, was to be the central character. […] The shift in emphasis towards Quasimodo as a main character in the English title is a result of the original translator of the work into English, Frederic Shoberl, being aware that gothic novels were more popular in England than romance: see (Wren, 1993, pp v-xix).

The cited source is:

Wren, K. (1993). Introduction Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. London: Wordsworth Classics.

Unfortunately, the Google Books scan of this book doesn't have the introduction available, so I can't investigate this claim further. Hopefully someone can build on this to write a better answer.


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