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Literature / Corinne

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Corrine, ou l'Italie (Corinne, or Italy) is a romantic novel by French author Madame Germaine de Staël, whose publication in 1807 led to the author being exiled from France by Napoleon. Again.

A young Scottish aristocrat, Lord Oswald Nelvil, falls into depression following the death of his father, and sets off on a journey to Italy in an attempt to raise his spirits.

There, he is captivated by the free-spirited and beautiful poet Corinne, but finds himself torn between his love for her and his duty to his father to find a suitable match.


This work contains examples of:

  • Bedlam House: When the town of Ancona goes up in flames, Oswald enters the the burning asylum to rescue the five inmates, one of whom is chained to the wall and has to be physically wrestled out of the madhouse, as he is only accustomed to being abused by those who approach him.
  • Betty and Veronica: Modest, docile Ingenue Lucile Edgermond and independent, free-spirited Corinne, respectively.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Corinne turns out to be half-English.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Oswald does this twice when a fire breaks out in Ancona. When he hears that the Jews of the town have been locked up in the ghetto, and the Gentiles have no intention of letting them out ("God must have sent the fire to punish them," one woman reasons), he runs to their quarter and breaks the door down himself. Next, he enters the burning asylum through the top-floor window to rescue the inmates.
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  • The Ingenue: Lucile Edgermond.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The penniless Compte d'Erfeuil.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Much from Corinne, an ardent supporter of Italian reunification.
  • P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: Oswald and Corinne, respectively.
  • Scenery Porn: There's a reason the subtitle of the book is simply, "Italy", as most of Book V is a sumptuously detailed love letter to the monuments of Rome.
  • Shrinking Violet: Lucile is extremely shy and sheltered.
  • Starving Artist: The Compte d'Erfeuil used his musical talents to support himself and his ailing uncle, with great difficulty.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Madame d'Arbigny pretends to be in immediate danger of execution during the Reign of Terror, in order to convince Oswald, the object of her affections, to stay by her side rather than return to Scotland without her.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Oswald believes the Italians to be flippant and indolent, and is horrified by their comparatively relaxed sexual mores, going so far as to say that "Infidelity in England is more moral than marriage in Italy." When he attempts to praise Corinne by saying he doesn't believe she could possibly have been raised in Italy, and claims no Italian man deserves her, she is not amused.