Corinne, or Italy

Madame de Staël (born Anne Louise Germaine Necker, major opponent of Napoleon & sent into exile by him) is a force to be reckoned with. Corinne was published in 1807 in French and immediately translated into English for a wider audience to gape and tremble at the powerful description of a creative woman celebrated throughout Italy for her talents yet stifled by English society. The book is a feminist classic, owned and referred to by all the nineteenth and twentieth-century greats. The story is of Corrine, an Englishwoman who flees her country to return to the home of her mother, Italy, in order to express herself fully, becoming a renowned poet and writer. She meets Oswald, Lord Nevil, a mournful Scotsman who can’t seem to shake the grief from his father’s death the year prior. Naturally he falls head over heels for Corrine, but why she reciprocates and loses her mind over him, I’m not sure. They gadabout all over Italy, the book becomes quite an Italian guidebook at this point, Naples, Florence, Rome, Venice, detailed descriptions of day-trips to see the local wonders. Oswald must leave to rejoin his regiment, he ventures back to England where the power of Corrine’s letters wanes and he falls under the spell of her half-sister, Lucile (it’s always a half-sister!), the blonde innocent fifteen year old whose freshness is in stark contrast to Corrine’s aged worldliness. But hark! Oswald’s dad has left explicit instructions that he NOT marry Corrine and that he should marry Lucile. Oswald struggles against this proclamation from the grave but only gives into the charm of Lucile once Corrine sends him back her ring with a note that he is free. Corrine has traveled to England then Scotland, only to witness the growing charms of Lucile, and sets Oswald free. She returns to Italy and declines in health, later dying dramatically after teaching Lucile and Oswald’s daughter how to play music and sing.