He was born at Tréguier, in Brittany. He was the son of a lawyer who held posts of great importance at Rennes and in Paris, and was well educated at both places, but took to no profession and resided much, for a time, in his father's country-house in Brittany. A very strong Roman Catholic, he appears to have been specially excited by his countryman Renan's attitude to religious matters, and coming under the influence of JA Barbey d'Aurevilly and Louis Veuillot, the two most brilliant crusaders of the Church in the press, he started a newspaper of his own, Le Croisé ("The Crusader"), in 1859; but it only lasted two years.
He wrote, however, much in other papers. He had very bad health, suffering apparently from spinal or bone disease. But he was fortunate enough to meet with a wife, Zoë Berthier, who, ten years older than himself, and a friend for some years before their marriage, became his devoted nurse, and even brought upon herself abuse from gutter journalists of the time for the care with which she guarded him.
Hello's work is somewhat varied in form but uniform in spirit. His best-known book, Physionomie de saints (1875), which has been translated into English (1903) as Studies in Saintship, does not display his qualities best. Contes extraordinaires, published not long before his death, is better and more original.
But the real Hello is to be found in a series of philosophical and critical essays, from Renan, l'Allemagne et l'atheisme (1861), through L'Homme (1871) and Les Plateaux de la balance (1880), perhaps his chief book, to the posthumously published Le Siècle.
The peculiarity of his standpoint and the originality and vigour of his handling make his studies, of Shakespeare, Hugo and others, of abiding importance as literary "triangulations," results of object, subject and point of view.