Corinne, or, Italy

Corinne, or, Italy

Corinne, or, Italy

Corinne, or, Italy

Synopsis

Corrine, or Italy, is both the story of a love affair between Oswald, Lord Nelvil, and a beautiful poetess, and an homage to the landscape, literature and art of Italy. Stael, the subject of recent feminist rediscovery, weaves discreet political allusion into her romance, and upon its publication Napoleon renewed her order of exile. Sylvia Raphel's new translation preserves the natural character of the French original, while the notes and introduction place this extraordinary work of European Romanticism in its historical and political context.

Excerpt

Oswald, Lord Nelvil, peer of Scotland, set out from Edinburgh to go to Italy during the winter of 1794 to 1795. He had a distinguished, handsome face, was highly intelligent, bore a great name, and had independent means. A deep sorrow had, however, affected his health, and his doctors, fearing that his lungs had been damaged, had advised him to go south. He followed their advice, although he took little interest in the preservation of his life. He hoped, at least, to find some distraction in the variety of things he was going to see. The most poignant grief of all, the loss of a father, was the cause of his illness. Painful circumstances, remorse inspired by scruples of conscience, intensified his grief, enhanced by phantoms of his imagination. When one is suffering, it is easy to be convinced of one's own guilt, and intense sorrows carry the pain into conscience itself.

At the age of twenty-five, he was disenchanted with life, his opinion was formed about everything, and his wounded feelings no longer entertained illusions of affection. No one was more obliging or devoted to his friends when he could be of service to them, but nothing gave him pleasure, not even the good he did. He would. continually and readily sacrifice his own preferences to those of his friends, but generosity alone could not explain the complete renunciation of all self- interest, and it had often to be ascribed to the kind of melancholy which prevented him from taking an interest in his own fate. Those who did not care about him appreciated this trait and thought it attractive and charming, but those who loved him felt that he was concerned for the happiness of others like a man who had no hope of happiness for himself, and they were almost saddened by the happiness he gave them without their being able to give him any in return.

Yet he had an emotional, acutely sensitive temperament, which combined every feature that could move others and himself, but misfortune and repentance had made him afraid of destiny and he thought he could disarm it by making no demands on it. In devoting himself . . .

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